Feed the Kitty (1952)
The reason I love Warner Bros. cartoons above all others -- apart from the writing, direction, acting, and score -- is their attitude toward cats. They like cats. Even when Tweetie is clobbering Sylvester or that obnoxious puppy is scaring the pants off Claude, Warner Bros. animators use actual cat qualities (skittishness, spectacular attack failures, and highly conditional love) to make us care; in other words, they clobber with love.
Unlike Disney, who demonstrably hates cats (and mothers, whatever that's about), Warner Bros. operates from the position that there are reasons to love cats, even if you aren't the type. Like if you're a ferocious bulldog, for instance. In Feed the Kitty, Marc Anthony (Mel Blanc) is one such dog: fierce, snarling, and looking for a fight. At the cartoon's open, Marc Anthony spies a wee kitten in an alley and charges in, teeth bared, with intent to scare the little thing blind. Unfazed by this display, the kitten mews a greeting, crawls up the dog through his open jaws, plucks out a bed on his brawny back, and falls fast asleep.
Marc Anthony is in love.
He is also far from the rough street dog he pretends to be. Still carrying the sleeping kitten on his back, Marc Anthony walks into his suburban home just in time to get a lecture from his frustrated owner (Bea Benaderet), who is standing in the living room in a sea of chewed up dog toys. She forbids him to bring one more thing into the house: Not ONE MORE THING. The rest of the cartoon, therefore, is how one spoiled dog tries to keep his curious kitten a secret from his owner through some of the best cartoon choreography you'll ever see.
After disguising the cat as a windup toy and a powder puff, Marc Anthony is forced to hide it in the flour bin just as his owner is getting ready to bake cookies. Thinking the kitten is in the batter (it's not), a distraught Marc Anthony watches from exile outside as the dough is mixed, rolled, cut, and baked. When he's allowed back in the house, grief-stricken and wracked with guilt, Marc Anthony accepts a cat-shaped cookie from his consoling owner, shaking in ironic misery. It's a genius performance, tear-inducingly funny and unforgettable. So unforgettable in fact, that Pixar paid loving tribute to the scene by recreating it in Monsters, Inc., when Sully feared Boo had been mangled in a trash compacter. A fitting homage well done.
I am not one of those people who wax hagiographic about Chuck Jones as a director -- I'm more of a Clampett/McKimson girl -- but it's hard to argue with Feed the Kitty as one of the most deftly composed and executed shorts going.
Written by Michael Maltese, directed by Charles M. Jones (my favorite Jones), Feed the Kitty is seven minutes you'll never forget or regret. Watch it now:
Bea Benaderet was uncredited in this and all other Warner Bros. cartoons in which she acted. Mel Blanc was the only voice actor of his day to receive acting credit, but he only got it as consolation for not getting a raise. Here are a few of my favorite Benaderet Warner Bros. performances:
I'll do just about anything a movie tells me to do. Unless it tells me wrong...
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